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Orion Genomics and North Carolina State University, Illumina, Invitrogen and Bio Asia, Invitrogen and Mayo Clinic, and US Government

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Orion Genomics, NC State Get $1.6M From USDA to Sequence Parasitic Nematode

Orion Genomics and researchers from North Carolina State University have received $1.59 million from the US Department of Agriculture to sequence the genome of parasitic nematode worms.

The firm said that the root knot nematode was chosen for sequencing, out of an estimated 100,000 to 1 million species of nematodes, because they are the major pathogens of vegetables throughout the world.

According to Orion, the root knot nematode is the most common and destructive of plant parasitic nematodes and account for an estimated $100 billion annual loss worldwide in crops including rice, potato, cereal grains, soybeans, and others.

Orion’s technologies are used to detect normal and abnormal epigenetic patterns of genes and genomes and are applied to agricultural research and molecular diagnostics.


Punitive Damages Illumina Owes for Wrongful Termination ‘Grossly Excessive,’ Court Says

Illumina stands to save $3.3 million in assorted legal costs after a judge last week said that punitive damages sought in a wrongful-discrimination suit by a former Illumina chief science officer were “grossly excessive,” Illumina said this week.

The San Diego high-throughput genotyping-instrument company said it expects to record a one-time gain of $3.3 million, but it will still have to pay $5.9 million in myriad legal fees, including $2.2 million in punitive damages for the wrongful-termination suit.

An Illumina spokesperson said it was not immediately clear when Illumina will record the one-off amount, and that no actual money has been spent or saved because of the likelihood that the plaintiff may still appeal the decision.

The decision to limit the punitive damages was made in a Dec. 3 ruling by the Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego.

As GenomeWeb News, Pharmacogenomics Reporter’s sister publication, reported in 2002 (see GenomeWeb News 7/12/2002), Illumina was told to pay at least $7.7 million in damages and litigation expenses in connection with a jury verdict for wrongfully terminating co-founder and former chief scientific officer Anthony Czarnik.

Czarnik sued Illumina for wrongful termination in March 2001, in California Superior Court. At the time, Illumina said it would take the $7.7 million charge on its second-quarter 2002 financial statement.

“We believe that this termination was lawful in all respects and that the verdict was unsupported by evidence presented at the trial. The company plans to vigorously defend its position on appeal,” Jay Flatley, Illumina president and CEO, in a statement at the time.

Illumina had $66.5 million in cash and investments as of Sept. 30.


Invitrogen buys Chinese Reagent Shop for $8M

Invitrogen is set to acquire Bio Asia, a Chinese reagent supplier, for up to $8 million in cash, and plans to invest more than $20 million in China over the next five years, the company said this week.

Bio Asia, which is based in Shanghai and has branches in Beijing and Guangzhou, as well as 18 sales offices across China, provides sequencing reagents and custom R&D services. The company, which was founded in 1999, has approximately $5 million in revenues.

The acquisition, which was approved by both companies’ boards of directors, is pending approval from the Chinese government. It coincides with new guidelines from the World Trade Organization that will open the Chinese biotech industry to foreign-owned companies, according to Invitrogen.

This is not Invitrogen’s first foray into China: In 1989, the company established its first office in the country. Following the Bio Asia acquisition, Invitrogen China will have more than 170 employees.


Invitrogen, Stepping Into Diagnostics, Pens Biomarker Collaboration With Mayo Clinic

Invitrogen and the Mayo Clinic will co-develop diagnostic biomarkers and the technologies to detect them, the two organizations said this week.

The aim of the collaboration — which marks the first time Invitrogen has stepped directly into the field of diagnostics — is to develop new diagnostic and prognostic tests for cancer and general laboratory medicine.

In the deal, Invitrogen will provide research tools, which include human protein microarrays, engineered cell lines, cell-based assays, and cloning and expression technologies. The Mayo Clinic will contribute patient samples and expertise in diagnostic assays.

Invitrogen can license technologies resulting from the collaboration either exclusively or non-exclusively, in exchange for funding several biomarker research programs at Mayo.


US Gov’t Sets New Rules for SBIR Funding; Public Comment Period Open until Feb. 1

The Federal Register published last week a final ruling regarding small business requirements for SBIR funding.

According to the Small Business Administration, an SBIR grant recipient must be a for-profit business that is at least 51-percent owned and controlled by one or more individuals who are citizens of, or permanent resident aliens in, the United States.

Alternatively, the grant recipient can be majority owned and controlled by a for-profit concern that is at least 51 percent owned and controlled by an individual or individuals who are citizens of, or permanent resident aliens in, the United States.

In its ruling, which was pubished in the Federal Register on Dec. 3, SBA noted that this rule does not change the size standard required to receive SBIR funding. Currently, a company or its affiliates must employ no more than 500 people.

The SBA said that because it has received a large number of comments concerning ownership of SBIR Program participants by venture capital firms, SBA said it plans to issue an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comments from the public on this issue.

The SBA is also currently seeking comments from the public on several issues that were raised during the public comment period of the administration’s recently withdrawn proposal to restructure its small business size standards. Specifically, the SBA is seeking comments on whether it should provide an exclusion from affiliation with venture capital companies in determining small business eligibility for the SBIR program, the NIH said.

All comments must be received by Feb. 1, 2005. Details about the rule and how to submit comments can be found at http://www.sba.gov/size/anprm.html.

 

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The Scan

US Booster Eligibility Decision

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Arizona Bill Before Judge

The Arizona Daily Star reports that a judge is weighing whether a new Arizona law restricting abortion due to genetic conditions is a ban or a restriction.

Additional Genes

Wales is rolling out new genetic testing service for cancer patients, according to BBC News.

Science Papers Examine State of Human Genomic Research, Single-Cell Protein Quantification

In Science this week: a number of editorials and policy reports discuss advances in human genomic research, and more.